Black 47: the Good, the Tragic, and the Horrifying

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2018 at 22:45


Black 47 is a compelling Irish Western and revenge drama set in Ireland in 1847 during the potato famine. Irish soldiers are returning after serving the British crown in war, one of the only opportunities for impoverished Irishmen during in the 1840s. Soldiers who don’t die in Afghanistan come back to the horrors of famine and the occupation of their nation by the British who did nothing to help the starving and sick masses.  

When Feeney, skillfully and somberly portrayed by James Frecheville, returns from the current English war, he has lost everything: his family and land. What’s an Irishman to do? The first and last choice is to kill some Englishmen who “aren’t welcome here”, in Ireland. He takes the skills he learned in the British army and turns them on the occupiers. 

Frecheville out-Clints Eastwood in this drama. Equally entertaining is the great Hugo Weaving as Hannah, Frechville’s former British commander. Then there is the Freddie Fox as Captain Pope, a British career man hunting Frecheville. I haven’t seen such deliciously seething contempt in the British since Tim Roth in Rob Roy. Stephen Rea is also his down-on-his-luck best in this feature as a man doing what he can to survive. Throw in Jim Broadbent as a racist English landlord and you have a recipe for a great film-going experience. 

The scenery is so beautifully filmed that I didn’t mind long pans of the scrubs and shots of men riding on horseback in the rocky landscape. The edits are tight and crisp, with few ill-timed cuts. The costumes were spot on and the history seems accurate to this non-historian. The one major flaw was the music. Brian Byrne goes over the top with the sentimentality and cloying tunes and it interferes with the rest of the great production. I put that on the director and producer who should have trusted that their story was gripping enough without an overwrought film score. 

Rating: Pay Full Price. For those in the U.S., it’s probably too late to see this in the theaters. You will miss some the impact of great landscapes. However, the story will work on a smaller screen.  

Tex Shelters

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